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Reframing Relationships as a Mathematical Challenge: Jerusalem as a Parody of Current Interfaith Dialogue

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Reframing Relationships as a Mathematical Challenge
Excluded options
Preamble to further exploration
Lines of exploration
Concrete proposal: the condominium approach
Next steps
Objections
Conclusion
References

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Prepared on the occasion of the European conference of the United Religions Initiative (Oxford, 1997)


Introduction

It might be considered presumptuous and naive for anybody to seek windows of opportunity in the current tangled complex of Jerusalem. Many have devoted considerable attention to the matter. Nevertheless, as with a number of other faith-based territorial disputes, current approaches seem doomed to reinforce polarization, repression and violence. Jerusalem makes a mockery of present approaches to inter-faith dialogue -- mirroring too well the kinds of dialogue characteristic of the end of the 20th century. So maybe there is a case for fools stepping in where the wisest fear to tread -- for the initiatives of the wise are proving counter-productive. 

Stated simply, perhaps simplistically, Jerusalem exemplifies a condition in which different groups lay claim to some form of possession or sovereignty over the same territory. These claims are not going to disappear, however they are 'regulated' in the short or medium term. From this perspective, it could be considered futile to continue to seek solutions based on the assumption that one or other claim can be made to disappear, or can be effectively neglected as irrelevant in practice. Can 'a land for people without a land' be achieved for any length of time by making another people landless? 

The challenge then becomes to discover ways in which several claimants can maintain sovereignty over the same territory. This challenge needs to be framed in an exploratory, brainstorming mode to avoid premature closure of doors, and neglect of windows of opportunity that are as yet poorly recognized. The point to be strongly made is that such possibilities need to be on the table as a trigger to the imagination, whether to evoke richer possibilities or to discover ways of giving form to those which might be so articulated. It is useful to recall that many successful scientific developments are based on numerous (even hundreds or thousands) of trials.